Title: Ticky Box Therapy
Word count: 2600
Characters: Fifth Doctor
Summary: After Time-Flight, the Fifth Doctor goes to see a therapist. "The ticky boxes told the sad tale. The Doctor was a histrionic, narcissistic, dependent, paranoid, passive-aggressive sociopath with possible bipolar tendencies."
Carla Saunders wasn't a psychologist; she merely pretended to be one, and on the whole she thought she made a pretty good job of faking it. She certainly didn't want to go back to five months ago, when she had been scraping a living as a waitress.
Just think! She would still be mired in that dead-end job if one afternoon, an idea hadn't occurred to her. Indeed, that idea was so brilliant she wondered why she had never thought of it before. That same day, she quit her job, hired a cheap office in a ratty old nearly vacant building, began calling herself a psychologist, and waited for clients. She got some, too. Her rates were low, her manner nonjudgmental. She was a natural for the job, excepting the minor fact that she was supremely unqualified. Still, she justified to herself, she wasn't a patch on that American who had, in the 1960s, sccessfully faked being a lawyer, a doctor, an aeroplane pilot, and more. He had endangered lives; she hadn't.
Truth be told, usually her work was easy. Most of her clients simply wanted a sympathetic ear and uninterrupted time to talk. With the few who required special knowledge, Carla used fudged information she'd picked up on the Internet. No one ever seemed to notice or asked to see her credentials. It was amazing what nonsense people would believe if you told it to them with a straight face. Best of all, Carla rather enjoyed her job. Even with limited customers and fairly cheap rates, it paid much better than waiting on tables ever had.
So what if she worked out of a cramped office whose single window stuck so badly she'd not once been able to pry it open? So what if the lone adjoining room was so tiny it didn't even have a window, stuck or otherwise? She was making her own way quite nicely, and it was no less than she deserved.
Or at least, she thought so until the day an odd young blond man showed up in her office and seriously dented her confidence in her abilities.
It happened to be a very slow day, with no appointments and no sign of a random client walking through the door. Bored, Carla leaned her head against the back of her chair and closed her eyes. She was just resting them, of course, but shut eyes tend to lead to actual sleep and such was the case with Carla on this dull Tuesday morning.
The sound of a nearby throat being cleared startled Carla awake. Her eyes flew open and she found herself staring across her desk at a sprig of celery. The sprig of celery was attached to the lapel of an old-fashioned beige cricketing outfit worn by a blond man of about 30. He would not have looked out of place in a famous painting Carla had recently seen of a 1920s cricket match held at old Cranleigh Hall.
"Please accept my apologies," the stranger said with the utmost politeness. "I was hoping you might have time to speak with me this morning."
"Speak with?" Carla repeated groggily.
"In a professional capacity," the man clarified. "I understand you're a psychologist?"
"Oh. Yes." Carla pushed herself fully upright and lifted her chin. "Yes, I am."
"Then, might I have an hour or so of your time?" the man went on.
"I do have the morning free," Carla replied. (Actually, she had the entire day free, but admitting her lack of business to clients probably wasn't the best way to inspire confidence in her services.) "Please sit down," she invited.
The man did so while Carla fumbled around on her desk and eventually emerged with her handy list she had obtained on the Internet and revised slightly for her own needs. The top of the paper contained spaces for entering background data on each individual. The bottom section was a list complete with handy ticky boxes. She quickly marked the box next to "histrionic", thinking of the eccentric dress of her client, then informed him, "I'll need some basic information from you."
He nodded. "Certainly."
"Name?" she asked perfunctorily.
"The Doctor," he said.
Carla raised an eyebrow but didn't otherwise outwardly react. After all, last Friday she'd had "Superman" as a client. She scrawled the Doctor's name at the top of her paper, then skipped down and ticked "superiority complex" on her list, as well as "delusions of grandeur".
Seeming to sense her scepticism, the man elaborated. "Some people know me as John Smith."
Alias! Carla thought triumphantly as she smiled falsely. "And your address?"
"Ahem." Her client shifted in his seat. "I have a home, but it isn't precisely a fixed location. I move a lot."
Carla set aside her pen for a moment. "Have you ever considered settling down in one place?"
"I tried it. I didn't like it," the Doctor replied shortly. He then added, in a conciliatory manner, "I love to travel and see new and exciting places, you see."
"Yes, I see." His answer set off an alarm bell, but Carla merely nodded and moved to the next question. "What is your occupation?"
"I suppose you could put down 'traveller', though some might regard me as an inveterate do-gooder."
"Understood." Carla scribbled "layabout" in the pertinent space and continued her short list of questions. "Birthdate?"
"Erm... what year is it?"
"The date is 19 April, 2008," Carla answered precisely.
"Then it's 26 August, 1978," the Doctor said.
Carla had the distinct impression that he had performed some quick sums before replying. She stared at him; he smiled blandly back. He was extremely beige, Carla thought. Perhaps if he dressed in a different colour, it would help give him more personality.
Finally she looked away and moved on with her work. The Doctor managed to answer the final few questions without incident, but the background information was supposed to be the easy part. Next came the more revealing section. In her best faux professional manner, Carla folded her hands before her on the desk and said, "So, what brings you here today?"
"Anything I tell you is in complete confidence?" the Doctor began.
"Certainly," Carla lied. (She was forever bringing home tales of her weirdo clients to friends and family, but she'd never be foolish enough to admit as much to a paying customer.) "You just have to be totally honest with me."
The Doctor cleared his throat again. "Well, you ask why I'm here, and it's due to a combination of factors. But if you want the straw that broke the camel's back, it's the fact that once I got the cricket scores off my mind, I found that I can't stop thinking about poor Adric."
"Adric," Carla repeated invitingly.
"I suppose you could call him my ward. Or rather, could have called him that."
"You feel guilty about something that happened to Adric," Carla rephrased.
The Doctor looked away. "He died."
Carla felt triumph surging as she recognised the signs of an issue having been dodged. She ruthlessly pressed her advantage. "Do bad things often happen to people you know?"
Without hesitation, the Doctor nodded. "People are always getting injured or dying around me, especially in this most recent persona."
"Persona?" Carla probed.
The Doctor sighed. "I used to be a very different man indeed. Four of them, actually. Only not all at once, of course. We--I--took turns. That's how it works."
Carla nodded. "Oh, of course." Meanwhile, her biro practically flew across her paper, mercilessly ticking boxes. The Doctor was revealing disorders almost faster than she could mark them down. She finally caught up, then looked him in the eye. "By the way, do you ever feel like the world is out to 'get you'?" She sketched air quotes around the final two words of the sentence in an effort to appear more casual and approachable.
The technique seemed to work. The Doctor quickly replied, "Oh, yes, very much so. It seems that everywhere I go, someone tries to shoot, attack, arrest, or otherwise harm me. And all I ever want to do is help them." He brightened. "Well, sometimes I succeed in helping. I do find myself in dangerous situations quite often and tend to be the only one who can assist. I suppose it's my lot in life."
"Do you seek out these dangerous situations?" Carla asked.
The Doctor shrugged. "Not particularly. I seem to have this habit of stumbling across them and wanting to help. Unfortunately, my efforts are not always appreciated."
"Thus, the shooting, attacking, and arresting?" Carla said. "How many times have you been arrested?"
"Well," the Doctor hedged, "more times than I've cared to be."
"Were any of these arrests justified?"
He blinkly rapidly. "Technically, I suppose a few here and there were. Possibly more than a few. But I always meant well! If I'd known my actions would definitely result in arrest, I could have altered them accordingly."
"So, I can assume you're not very good at planning ahead?" Carla asked.
"I'm afraid it's not one of my strengths."
Carla ticked several more boxes (her paper was becoming alarmingly cluttered) and hoped the Doctor was wildly exaggerating.
With no encouragement from her, he abruptly volunteered, "I saved so many people and could have saved so many more, if only...." He paused and was silent for a few moments. Carla, utilising an old technique she had read about, did not attempt to fill this silence.
The Doctor spoke first. "I didn't mean to let Tegan down! She was forever angry with me for not getting her back home on time but she never seemed to grasp the fact that it didn't matter, that time was never an issue for us. What did it matter if she travelled with me for an hour, or for two years?" He scowled. "Ian and Barbara were a bit unreasonable on that front, too."
Rapidly shifting emotional states, Carla jotted down. She couldn't for the life of her remember which mental disorder they indicated, but it couldn't be anything good. She had to calm the Doctor. In her most soothing tone, she recited, "Adric, Tegan, Ian, Barbara. You seem to frequently have friends around. How often do you travel alone?"
"Usually never. It becomes far too lonely and makes me feel so empty." The Doctor sighed. "They do come and go all too frequently."
"Who?" Carla asked in alarm (weren't rapidly shifting emotions indicative of psychopathy?).
"My companions, naturally," the Doctor said, appearing serenely unaware of the suspicions he had raised. "When one leaves, I have to get another one. Susan, Ian, Barbara, Vicki, Steven," he began and continued to rattle names until he concluded with a rush, "Romana, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan. I think that's everyone. No, wait! I forgot Katarina and Sara. But they died, too."
Which unpleasantly reminded Carla of the subject of Adric. She gulped, but she had to ask it: the question whose answer she was afraid to hear. "What did you do to those responsible for Adric's death?"
"Oh, they're dead now. They're very dead," he said quietly.
A chill ran down Carla's spine. Suddenly and forcefully, it struck her that she could well be in the company of a dangerous individual who might mean to do her harm. She frantically tried to recall the basic facts she had half-heartedly memorised about anti-social personality disorder. At the moment she could recall only three, but it seemed the Doctor had achieved the threesome of repeated law-breaking, extreme aggressiveness, and frequent irresponsibility.
To avoid looking at the Doctor and perhaps tipping him off as to her suspicions, she instead looked down. There was her list of disorders, with little ink marks scoring the page. The ticky boxes told the sad tale. The Doctor was a histrionic, narcissistic, dependent, paranoid, passive-aggressive sociopath with possible bipolar tendencies. Carla expected she had missed out on a few more unpleasant diagnoses, too. What the hell was she still doing in the same room as this man?
She forced a smile to her lips and hoped it didn't look as sickly as she suspected it might. "Please excuse me for a few minutes," she said, hoping the Doctor would assume she was merely going to make a trip to the loo.
"Of course," he said politely.
Carla stole one last glance at him before she escaped from her office. His gaze had abruply sharpened (her voice might have trembled a bit when she'd last spoken), but he wasn't getting up to follow her. An excellent sign.
She found herself in the corridor and quickly strode away from her office. She wanted there to be no chance that the psychopathic Doctor would hear her conversation with the police. When she was sure she was far enough away, Carla stopped, fixed a cautious eye on her office door, and extracted her mobile from her pocket. Then she heard it, coming from the direction of her office.
The noise was horrible, a bizarre scraping and grinding that Carla could not identify. Unless, possibly, the Doctor was trying to to pry open that difficult window so he could escape or commit suicide by jumping! If one of her clients died, it would call unwanted attention to her perhaps not-entirely-legal business.
The endangerment of her livelihood drove Carla to foolish measures. She shoved her phone back into her pocket, sprinted down the corridor, and flung open her office door.
The noise had faded into silence. Her strange client was nowhere to be seen and the window remained resolutely shut. However, the door to the adjoining room stood ajar. Carla shoved it all the way open. This modest space also was deserted, though square marks on the dusty floor indicated where a large object had recently stood, with a mass of footprints blanketing the area.
Completely confused, Carla mused over how the Doctor might have escaped. He hadn't left her office via the corridor; she would have seen him. Even if he'd managed to open and then close the stubborn window behind himself, it was a drop of five storeys to the street. She peeked out the window anyway; no one was anywhere in sight.
With a sigh, Carla slumped into her office chair. On the desk before her sat a piece of paper and a purple metal card that had not been present when she had left her client in the office mere moments ago. She pulled the items closer.
The neat script on the paper read, "Thanks for listening." The card, with its odd little notches, was a complete puzzle. The thought that it was a form of payment only briefly crossed Carla's mind; the thought that it was a futuristic credit card from an alien planet never did.
Maybe, Carla thought, her new job wasn't quite so wonderful after all. Realistically, it had only been a matter of time before a genuine psychopath had come her way. Shaken, she decided to call it a day, go home to her flat, and lie down in a cool, quiet room with a firmly locked door and perhaps a chair wedged before it for added security.
She grabbed her handbag from the floor and started to stand up. At that moment, a quick rapping sounded on the office door and then the knob twisted. Carla braced herself but relaxed when, instead of the strange young blond Doctor, a burly man wearing a blindingly multi-coloured coat stepped into her office. Then, as she saw a bizarre object pinned to his lapel (a cat badge?), fresh alarm spiked through her mind.
"Good morning," the man greeted her. "I'm here for a follow-up visit."
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